Valentino Guseli is calling out the car window at a petrol station, “Can you get me something? Just something healthy! Anything, maybe a banana?!”

In a game of “Celebrities Are Just Like Us,” Valentino is with his family in the car and is starving. They’re travelling to the mountains from his hometown of Dalmeny on NSW’s south coast, population 2500. Snowboard Champion, one.

Much to the relief of journalists (and competitors) everywhere, the northern season is over and the snowboarder who’s redefining the concept of champion is momentarily trapped in a car eating fruit. There’s finally the chance an interview with the just turned eighteen year old will remain current for more than a week or two, after a few months where this phenomenal athlete, considered a generational talent, set not one, or three but six snow industry records.

Trying to list them blends into a spreadsheet blur of overall champion this,  podium finishes that and seven medals. His management even resorted to a pictogram to explain his accomplishments. The top fact is he’s the first rider in FIS Snowboard World Cup history to finish on the overall podium in Halfpipe, Big Air and Slopestyle in the same season.

Currently, no other rider is capable of performing in more than one event at an elite level.

Our last interview with Guseli was mid competition season. He was fresh from being the first Australian to win a Big Air Crystal Globe and winning an Aspen X Games bronze in the halfpipe. At that point he was thrilled to show his multi discipline muscles, deliberately cultivated after, “some wise people told us early on it’s all snowboarding and that it’s very important to be able to do all of it”, he said. But he was only getting started.

Interview: Valentino Guseli, Australia's snowboard rockstar on the rise

Three days post interview he completed an extraordinary double at Mammoth Mountain in California, winning silver in both the halfpipe and slopestyle FIS World Cup competitions. And slid into history by adding a Slopestyle podium to his now triple stringed bow – just before this interview went to bed he won three awards at the Snow Australia Awards including the Male Athlete of the Year.

Guseli learned early what it’s like to be hot… then not. In his World Cup debut as a 15-year-old at the LAAX Open in Switzerland he not only made the finals (with the top qualifying score) but broke Shaun White’s record  for the highest air out of the pipe – an arrival-announcing 7.3 metres.

Valentino Guseli snowboarding at the Red Bull Performance Camp at Prime Park, Stubai Glacier, Austria on October 25, 2022 // Syo van Vliet / Red Bull Content Pool

Then followed a season plagued with a broken arm and learning to compete at the open level. He felt he let people down in his debut season saying, “I didn’t get any other decent results that year.”

In reality, he actually made almost every final that year. But Guseli’s always had a fierce desire to win. After this breakout season, what would he say to his 9-year-old self who would “cry and cry” when he lost, who took it personally because he only knew winning?

“I’d say, ‘Keep pushing’. Just keep doing what you’re doing. I’m still not really where I want to be. As happy as I am with what I’ve won, there’s still a higher level of operating that I’m aiming for. So, I’m just going to keep doing that.”

Doing that has earned him the respect of his peers. Bronze halfpipe medallist at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, Jan Scherrer, says of Guseli “You are never safe against him, because he will go bigger than everyone and boost even harder out of the halfpipe.”

Scherrer has had every reason not to feel safe, especially when Guseli’s moment to ‘keep pushing’ this season came at the halfpipe World Championships in Georgia.

FIS Freestyle Ski, Snowboard and Freeski World Championships – Bakuriani GEO – Snowboard Halfpipe – GUSELI Valentino AUS © Miha Matavz/FIS

Guseli was the first to land a cab-triple-1440 (four rotations with three flips, taking off switch) in halfpipe competition, during what he describes as “the best run of my life.” Yet he came in 0.5 points behind friend Cheung Lee after a lengthy judging deliberation, and both pushed Scherrer (who described that final run phase as ‘nerve wracking’) from first place to bronze position.

“I was disappointed,” Guseli says. “But I just look back on the personal stuff I had to push through and can be proud of what I did, without worrying about the results anymore.”

That personal stuff he references isn’t his ‘Celebrity Crush’ on Eileen Gu who he admires as, “she competes in Halfpipe, Big Air and Slopestyle and wins them all. She was kind of the first one to show that it’s possible to just be the best at everything.”

Rather, he bruised both ankles pre qualifications and could barely crawl let alone stand. Consulting event nutritionists, physios and doctors he did everything possible to compete, from mental visualisation of recovery to diligent icing, elevating and compressing.

At the top of his final run, “I just kept telling myself, “You will land this run, you will land this run, you will land this run,” he explains. And he did.

Guseli’s long time big air and slopestyle coach, Mikey Williams has been coaching Valentino since he was eight years old.

“For Valentino the goal is to always achieve his personal best performance, both physically and mentally. To control the controlables and focus purely on individual success. There are certain things you simply cannot control. The weather, the judges, other athletes performance for example,” says Williams.

“He is simply a grand master when it comes to the mindfulness behind the sport.

“Of course at times he may have self-doubt and anxieties surrounding his sport however he has an unbelievable ability to re-center extremely quickly and trust his training, preparation and most importantly himself.”

Guseli’s dad Ric says overcoming challenges to drop that run is signature Valentino. “I think Val manifests what happens in his life really well. He believes in what he’s doing, and does a very good job of following through to get the results he wants. He’s a perfectionist in every way.”

This was the first season Ric didn’t accompany his son on tour. “He knows everyone now. And he came through with flying colours, the results that he got show he was ready to take full control of what he’s doing.”

Ric also gave his son a gift early. Humility. “Imagine, it’s very easy for a young boy to really get a big head about what they’re doing when they win a lot”, he says of a pre-teen Valentino.

“We saw 15-year-old kids who were not humble at all. And what you learn when you’re young stays with you for the rest of your life.”

So Val could wear the medal for a night. “And the next morning, he knew he had to forget about it. That was yesterday.”

Australian film maker Nik Kavo who’s filmed him both as a Perisher youngster and in Europe confirms, “There’s no ego with Valentino. He’s one of the most focused athletes I’ve seen, yet he still manages to be one of the most down to earth and friendly kids you’ll ever meet.”

The parents of six year old Cash Rowley couldn’t agree more, nor be more thrilled that the superstar took some park laps in LAAX with Cash. They first met in the athlete lounge at the Aspen X Games and stayed in touch on Instagram afterwards.

A chance meet up in Switzerland saw Guseli take some time out to hang in the park with one super stoked little girl.

“Being humble enough to take some time away from riding like the awesome athlete he is and give back to the youth is really unique,” says Nick Rowly. “I send Val updates when Cashy stomps something new and he always responds with stoke.”

Apart from Valentino’s quest to, “win as many Olympic gold medals I can fit in the next 20 years,” this giving back is something he’s doing quietly and consistently.

“My main purpose of my entire life is to try and show snowboarding to as many people as possible and try and grow the sport,” he says. One tiny Cash at a time.

This article originally appeared in our 84 page free e-mag, The Southern Issue. Read it here.